Scientist sheds light on complexity of biodiversity loss | 5/22/2019 | Staff
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Two-thirds of America's bird species are threatened with extinction, according to the National Audubon Society. Many other studies show similar declines in mammals, insect and fish species across the globe.

Scientists are trying to better predict how biodiversity loss will affect ecosystems—how well they function and perform services we all need—especially in the face of climate change stress. Pioneering research at the Natural Resources Research Institute found a better way to understand biodiversity impacts.

University - Minnesota - Duluth - Natural - Resources

University of Minnesota Duluth Natural Resources Research Institute limnologist Chris Filstrup is the lead author on a paper published in the journal Ecology Letters this month, that suggests that species richness—the number of different species in a given ecological community—is not the only, nor necessarily the best, way to measure biodiversity impacts on ecosystems. A stronger measure to predict how well the ecosystem is functioning is how evenly the species are distributed.

For example, in Filstrup's research on algae in lakes, he looked at whether or not multiple species have about the same number of individuals in a community, no matter the number of different species. It's easy to understand that having similar numbers of species across a community is a good thing. What's unexpected is that "even" communities don't always lead to high-functioning or highly productive ecosystems, as scientists thought.

Evenness - Species - Tends - Richness - Function

"Evenness of species tends to be overlooked, but we found it can be more important than richness when predicting how well ecosystems function," said Filstrup. "As scientists, we need to determine how ecosystems will respond to environmental change,...
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